The journey has begun and I am back in the saddle!  It has come as a massive relief that there have been zero issues with knee pain.  Thank you all endlessly for believing in me and for your continued support.  People are nothing without each other – it’s a beautiful truth.

Prior to setting out on June 2nd, I had the pleasure of interviewing with Zach Hillstrom of the Pueblo Chieftain Newspaper.  We had a 2 hour talk, and he composed this incredible article, summarizing my story and mission beautifully: Read Article

Afterward, I headed to the City Park and met Caiti Blase with Pueblo ABC News Channel 5 (KOAA) to talk about Veteran Issues and the importance of pulling yourself from the ashes.  View Segment:

While training in Colorado Springs, I received a call from Marie Harris with Bowling Green State University.  I was proud to attend and graduate from BGSU as President of my major with a Bachelor of Science in Technology, an Associate of Arts, and Minor in General Business back in 2009 before starting Sarah Lee Photography in Nashville.

Marie and I spoke for quite a while and Robb Nardeccia constructed this awesome article, which will also be published in the BGSU Alumni Magazine this Fall:  Read Article

An Army Veteran couple named Nancy & Brent reached out and took me into their arms and home like part of the family, making my days prior to starting out fun and comfortable.  They even threw an amazing farewell party with some local friends.  Smoked prime rib, smoked salmon, baked beans, fruit salad, and greens.  Then, a motorcycle ride in the Rockies!!  Vroom Vroom.  I miss them  so much already…

Sam Chambers of Great Divide Bike, Hike, and Ski single handedly arranged a send off escort from City Park in Pueblo to Cañon City.

The escort included cyclists, bikers, and chase vehicles.  They weren’t going to let anything happen to me this time, haha.  ‘Honored’ and ‘speechless’ doesn’t cut it.  All of us single filing down Highway 96 was an incredible sight…

It was a memorable Day One: nearly 50 miles from Pueblo to Cañon City with a stop in Wetmore near my accident site.  The community of Wetmore arranged snacks and a hydration station for us all at the halfway mark.  Just what we all needed!!  We arrived in Cañon City and celebrated a challenging, but successful first ride at Royal Gorge Brewery.

Finally, I came face to face with the front range.  As I mentioned previously: While nature and mankind are equally seasonal, nature never seems to disappoint.  As promised, the Rockies  handed back my heart in one piece.  I left such a part of myself at the front range last year – like an offering…  A collateral of sorts, until my deeply anticipated return.

On a journey from east to west, you inevitably cross paths with avid thru-hikers in two main Trail Towns: Damascus, VA (Appalachian Trail) and Salida, CO (Continental Divide Trail).  It was fun to swap stories in quaint Salida at the Simple Lodge & Hostel.  I even got to buy a Navy Veteran his birthday shot right at midnight, with his girlfriend’s permission of course.  🙂  Happy birthday, Shipmate.

Time for Monarch Pass. This infamous summit peaks at 11,312′ and is the highest point on my entire 4,300+ mile long route.  The main climb is over 3,000′ at 7%-8% grade in only 10 miles distance, from Maysville to Monarch Crest.  I reluctantly listened to all the usual trite warnings and the “watch out for’s”, but consequently, it was a pristine and consistent climb.  “It is what it is” is a resignation of effort – everything is what you make it.  If you can get into a groove, you are golden.  Besides, I have never walked my bike once in over 2,900 miles.  Not going to start now.  Push yourself, not your bike.

17 years ago to this day, at age 17, I enlisted into the United States Military.  June 6, 2001 – the proudest day of my life.  I carried my Army flag and American flag to the top and held them high. This was a day of reflection, vigor, and victory.  I miss the military and its camaraderie every day.  It’s tricky finding civilian friends who would take a bullet for you without hesitation.  Being a soldier in the United States Army is the only thing that’s ever made complete sense to me.

The Rockies are magnificent and breathtaking from base to tip.  The detail could entertain your eyes and mind for lifetimes.  The crisp air seems to revive your soul, even as it thins.  On each summit lies a reincarnation of sorts; it can feel as though you’re slowly dying while climbing its sides, but are reborn ten fold during the descents.  Like clockwork.  The way the peaks meet the clouds is the closest reality can get to heaven on earth.

The temperatures have been relatively mild and I’ve very much enjoyed beginning my rides in the late mornings.  Days consist of eating my own limitations for breakfast, sharing lunches with mixed company, and digesting all the details around me.  The way the mountains and I are consuming each other is intoxicating.  This mutual respect must be earned over the miles, for these ranges both preceded and will outlive us all.

Both the Dallas Divide summit and the descent into Telluride, CO could undoubtedly tweak the very definition of stunning.  My cycling host for the night, Zak, met me on the way and rode with me into town.  We ate dinner with Hiatt, another cyclist touring on the same route.

The next day, Zak took us on a spontaneous water skiing excursion at Ridgway Reservoir.  I hadn’t attempted skiing since grade school, but managed to get up right away!  It came back to me immediately… just… like…   ….riding a bike, lol.  Which up until last year, I hadn’t done since grade school either.  We made PB&J’s and relaxed on the lake all afternoon.  It was an unbelievable day with unforgettable people.  You never know who you’ll meet or how or where.  So put yourself out there.

I left Telluride and cycled through smoke and ash alongside a massive wildfire which forced the shut down of San Juan National Forest.  A bit menacing, but I passed by it quickly enough.  Thankfully, a freaking awesome group of bikers helped clear my throat by buying me a very cold, much appreciated Face Down Brown Ale.  We had too much fun, as if that’s possible.  Bambi, the deer skull I found in Missouri, typically attracts my favorite kind of crowd.  😉

The final test was cresting Lizard Head pass, summiting at 10,222′; my last pass of the Rocky Mountains.  Monarch butterflies followed alongside me the entire climb, which was certainly symbolic.  A journey such as this is meant to transform you, and while you may not yet possess the clarity of a Caterpillar, the signs seem to be everywhere you look.  Pointing you in the right direction.  Directing and dissecting your perceptions and perspectives.

The generosity and friendships continue to bloom as I rolled into Delores, CO and was welcomed by Coast Guard Veteran Dave and his wife Belinda, who allowed me to stay in their beautiful gym.  I had met a couple named Al and Betty in the town before that they happened to know and hadn’t seen in a while, so we all got together for breakfast the next morning.  What a spread!!  …So grateful.

Speaking of spontaneity, my time in Dove Creek, CO was riddled with both unexpected excitement and sentiment.  The locals adopted me for the weekend, took me on adventures, and I was even invited to a wedding up in the Monticello Mountains!

The wedding was unique and wonderful.  Perfectly sliced sections of Aspen trunk replaced chairs and rows of trees replaced the aisle.  Warm sun, cool breeze.  The perfect day for love…

I had the great pleasure of spending quality time with a decorated Vietnam Veteran and Marine Special Forces Sniper named Stan.  It’s truly amazing how the military bond transcends both generation, war zone, and branch.  We both felt less alone after having met – our encounter was intense, deep, and will be forever engrained.  Stan gifted me a beautifully engraved knife, complete with his name etched into the side to remember him by.  A keep sake and a keep safe, all in one.

SITREP: Utah. The 7th state out of 10.  Over 560 miles down since Pueblo with roughly 1,380 miles remain.  Crippling heat topped with delicious descents, surrounded by what appear to be slices of 1,000 layer chocolate cake, called Mesas.  Where wind blown sands have sculpted the earth and mountains are crumbling into dunes like an hourglass.  The dust in my teeth simply adds to my grit, there’s no such thing as drinking too much water, and shade is nearly as scarce as cell signal.

I will now indulge in this untamed terrain – a desolate decadence.  40 mile long climbs, triple digit temperatures, and sharp double-digit grade inclines are a bittersweet, but just dessert for this challenge seeker.  Not a single soul or resource for 70-90 miles at a time.  Preparation will truly be my ticket to survival.  I’m going in hot.  See you on the other side…

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